The Amalfi Coast and the surrounding region is one where you could spend a lot of time comfortably viewing Italy’s history as well as its coastal beauty.
Here are some of the best spots in the area in attempting to escape the ex-pat crowds:
1. Go Hiking
Climbing into the hills that surround Italy’s beautiful coastline don’t just get you an amazing view, but also offer you some amazing hikes. Near Sorrento is the hike to Punta Della Campanella, which offers amazing views of the coast, leading to an abandoned war outpost giving stunning views of Capri Island.
Getting to this hike means taking a local bus (cheapest option – more info here) from Sorrento up to Termini (which can be seen on the map below). Once here, you can begin your hike. Follow the signs to Punta Della Campanella and continue following the road until you reach a gravel path. This will lead you Punta Della Campanella as point number one. From here, you can choose to turn around and go back the way you came, or you can hike up the hill following a vaguely marked track all the way to the top of the hill eventually leading you to the top of the road. From here you can easily see the chapel on top of another hill which provides another excellent view point (the church is also abandoned).
All in all this is an interesting hike and can get quite tiresome (especially if you go up the hill from Punta Della Campanella). The reward in the views are well worth it. Once you have completed this cycle you will find yourself back in Termini and can catch a bus back down to Sorrento.
Another hike that needs to be recommended which is closer to Positano on the Amalfi Coast is the “Path of the Gods“.
2. Visit Capri Island
Capri is a must do and is also a destination that you may be compelled to stay a few nights in (and why not!). To get here, you take a ferry which can be caught from Sorrento, but also from further abroad such as in Naples. If you are in Sorrento I would recommend that you take the cheaper option (which is what I did whilst living the backpacker lifestyle) with Caremar. Spend your savings on some gelato, you’re not missing anything by taking a ferry with another company.
There are also some great hiking trails on Capri and Anacapri which lead around the coast line to see some great features including the Arco Naturale. Don’t stop just here though, continue going and you’ll soon find some amazing sites. Another tip is instead of taking the chairlift to the top of Monte Solaro – hike up yourself. There are easy to navigate paths and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. There are of course plenty more hiking opportunities on the island, some of which can be seen here.
Beyond this, a visit to Capri wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto). Make sure you come to the island when the winds are low, otherwise it will be closed. You can hike to the Grotto, with an easier option being to catch the local bus from Anacapri.
3. Find the best local food in town
There are so many options for food in Sorrento that finding something authentic and off the tourist trail sometimes can feel difficult. However if you look hard enough you’ll always succeed and I believe that we were able to do this when we visited. Here are a few options that really stuck out:
1. O’ Sole Mio
– the pizza and calzone here was sublime and you really felt like you were at a home away from home in this ‘hole-in-the-wall’ restaurant (run by mother, father, and son)
2. Kebab Ciampa – sure this isn’t traditional Italian food, but it sure is popular and a great change if you get sick of eating pizza and pasta!
3. Chanteclers Trattoria – no fuss family restaurant that serves fantastic food for much less than some of the restaurants just one street over. You must give this place a try.
4. Ristorante Da Gigino – slightly more expensive (but not by much), this place was swarming when we went so we thought that we would give it a try. We were not disappointed! Great food, great atmosphere.
Of course there are plenty more options in town (and some that I’ve eaten at that I’ve most likely forgotten), but these ones I would revisit over and over again.
4. See the Amalfi Coast outside of Sorrento
The Amalfi Coast is a spectacular beauty that is not to be missed. From Sorrento, to Positano, Praiano and through to Amalfi itself there is so much to explore on this coast that one paragraph won’t do it justice. The tip I will offer is to catch the local bus (SITA), don’t take a tour bus. And also, if possible make sure you get a seat on the bus – the roads wind around and around and standing up can make you feel sick (take it from me)! Of course the more expensive but easier option is to hire your own car, good luck with parking though.
5. See Italy’s history at Pompeii or Herculaneum
Catching the train to Pompeii in itself is a great experience (if you haven’t already taken the train from Naples down of course). Pompeii and Herculaneum are ones not to be missed, though if you can pry yourself away from the famous name of “Pompeii”, Herculaneum is certainly the better choice of the two. Fit in both if you can, but don’t rush it as the history here is remarkable.
I’m not usually one to advocate for audio tours if you can get away with it, so download an audio guide app (free if possible) because it will be useful. Also grab one of the free maps if you can because in the case of Pompeii at least the site is huge!
6. Climb an active volcano
Yes, I’m talking about Mount Vesuvius itself. If you’re in the area how can you not give this a try? If you are already visiting Pompeii / Herculaneum on the same day (which I recommend you do even if it makes it a very full day), there are many options for buses which take you up the winding road to the entrance to the hike up Vesuvius itself.
If you prefer to steer clear of tour companies like I do, there is a local bus that makes this route (2,70 euro each way). Here is the timetable, and bus information. Note that you can climb up and down in less than 90 minutes, so don’t feel too rushed if you’re catching the last buses up and back. There is an entry fee at Vesuvius of 10 euro.